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Abu Dhabi preview - will Red Bull win, but lose? 11 Nov 2010

(L to R): Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing celebrates his pole position in parc ferme with second placed team mate Mark Webber (AUS) Red Bull Racing.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 12, Hungarian Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Budapest, Hungary, Saturday, 31 July 2010 Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing RB5 in the first practice session.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 17, Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Practice Day, Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, UAE, Friday, 30 October 2009 Fernando Alonso (ESP) Ferrari.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 17, Korean Grand Prix, Preparations, Korea International Circuit, Yeongam, South Korea, Wednesday, 20 October 2010 Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren MP4/24 in qualifying.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 17, Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, UAE, Saturday, 31 October 2009 Red Bull Racing tyres.
Formula One World Championship, Rd19, Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Preparations, Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, UAE, Thursday, 11 November 2010

Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz’s insistence on not employing team orders adds further spice to this weekend’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, as for the first time in history four drivers compete for the world championship crown in the final race.

Fernando Alonso has an eight-point advantage on his side for Ferrari, with 246 to Mark Webber’s 238 and Sebastian Vettel’s 231. And with Mateschitz saying Red Bull will not resort to team orders and that he would rather see his drivers finish second in the title race than be anything but sporting, the scene is set for them to go against each other mano a mano. Lewis Hamilton is the fourth contender, for McLaren, and has the slimmest chance of them all.

Last year the Red Bull RB5 was very quick in Abu Dhabi, and this year’s RB6 is better still. There is thus every possibility that the result of the Brazilian Grand Prix will be repeated - Vettel, Webber, Alonso. If that’s the case, Alonso will be champion with 261 points as the Red Bull drivers tie on 256. But if Webber wins from Vettel and Alonso, Webber wins with 263 to Alonso’s 261 and Vettel’s 249.

So while both Webber and Vettel must win, setting up a situation in which each will have to take whatever risks are necessary, Vettel can stand Webber finishing second because even though that would tie them on 256 points he would win on the basis of five victories to four. But Vettel also needs Alonso to finish sixth or lower. That will be a tall order unless the Ferrari proves fragile, which is unlikely.

Webber says: “The track has a good layout and the twilight aspect gives it a different atmosphere - it’s a good event. I think we have a great chance to go there and get a good result. There is a chance of the team getting another championship, which is an exciting proposition. There are lots of possible outcomes that could still happen, Fernando is in the best position of all of us, but we still have a chance, so let’s see what happens.”

Vettel says: “Obviously I have good memories from Abu Dhabi and I will be hoping to get another good result there this year, but let’s see. There’s still everything to play for in the drivers’ championship. Abu Dhabi is a good track; it’s fantastic to drive under the hotel bridge with the lights on the roof changing every time you go past. The people are very friendly and I’m looking forward to the race.”

Hamilton’s situation is simple: He is on 222 points and there are a maximum of 25 available, so he must win with Alonso failing to score, Vettel no higher than third and Webber no higher than sixth.

“I’ve been in the hunt for the world championship at the final race of the season on two previous occasions,” he says, “so I know all about the pressure you feel when the title is almost within touching distance. This year it feels a little different - although I’m still mathematically in with a shout I’m fully aware that, being 24 points behind, I’ll not only need to win the race on Sunday but see the championship leader finish outside the points. And, even then, that might not be enough. So I’m not feeling the pressure in quite the same way as I did in 2007 or 2008.

“That’s not to say I’m going into the race weekend feeling any less determined or motivated: we’ve seen before that this championship can be unpredictable and volatile - and I think this last race of the year could be even more unpredictable than normal. I know from personal experience that the championship isn’t over until you cross the line on the final lap - so I’ll not only make sure I’m up there at the end, but pushing hard until then. It’s going to be a brilliant spectacle, and a great event for Formula One fans around the world - I absolutely can’t wait.”

In Brazil Alonso listened politely as the Red Bull drivers discussed their situation. Vettel was bouncing like a cheery schoolboy, Webber seething inwardly because there had been no team order for Vettel to cede him the lead. Alonso, doubtless, was laughing himself sick.

So if the same top three pertains with a lap to go this weekend, will Vettel let Webber by regardless of Mateschitz’s wishes, thus enabling his team mate to beat Alonso by two points? That is a key question, and Vettel smiles at it.

“In my case it’s pretty straightforward,” he says. “I have to optimize the result, get everything out of myself and ideally repeat today, and then it depends where those two guys are. We have to judge according to the situation. I think both of us know how to act. We’ve had some moments we are not very proud of, and which we don’t want to repeat…”

Webber, typically, is more succinct. “Long story short: it depends on the last lap…”

No wonder Alonso is still smiling. “I just need to finish second,” the Spaniard says. “It doesn’t matter who wins if I do that. With that, the problem is finished.”

In contrast to the last two races the weather should be settled for the weekend, with partial cloud and an ambient temperature high between 31 and 33 degrees Celsius Thursday through to Sunday. As in Brazil, Bridgestone will be supplying their super soft and medium dry tyre compounds, for what is their final Grand Prix before Pirelli take over for 2011. Also as in Brazil, Christian Klien will race in place of Sakon Yamamoto at HRT.

There are two minor changes to the Yas Marina track. The run-off area at Turn Eight has been extended by approximately ten metres and an additional row of Tec Pro barriers has been installed, also at Turn Eight.

The race will run over 55 laps of the 5.554 kilometre (3.451 mile) circuit, or 305.355 kilometres (189.747 miles). As a day-night race it will start at 1700 hours local time, which is four hours ahead of GMT.

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